The community continues to thirst for more information regarding the expansion at P.S. 14.
Waterbury LaSalle Community Association’s Freedom of Information Law, FOIL, request for School Construction Authority inter-agency correspondence was rejected recently, association board members said.
But despite the denial, it also appears that the WLCA may now have regular meetings, possibly quarterly, with SCA officials.
The meetings’ purpose would be to brief key WLCA members on construction of the 344-seat school addition and relay any work-related community concerns to SCA, according to Senator Jeff Klein’s office.
They meetings could also include invited NYC Department of Education personnel, according to Klein’s office, and may take place during the school day to accommodate their schedules.
Two WLCA board members met with SCA officials on Thursday, January 26, and the senator’s office is working on scheduling another meeting in late May once the building’s footprints are complete, said members of Klein’s team.
“We remain committed to facilitating routine meetings between the entire P.S. 14 community with the express intention of promoting communication and transparency throughout the construction process,” said Klein in a statement.
Such meetings are all the more important once the foundations are completed and more construction workers and materials are on site, said members of the senator’s office.
A SCA official, Michael Mirisola, indicated in a statement that more meetings are indeed in the offing.
“We value community feedback and will continue to engage in meaningful discussions with community members,” the statement read. “We look forward to attending future meetings that are organized by the senator’s office. ”
In a separate development, Mary Jane Musano, a WLCA board member, said a FOIL request for documents related to the decision making process for the siting more classroom seats P.S. 14 was denied.
“It was rejected on the grounds that what we were requesting was inter-agency communication,” said Musano of the request, which allows the public access to certain government documents.
The rejection of the FOIL made her suspicious, the activist said.
Kristin O’Neill, assistant director of the Department of State’s Committee on Open Government, said that a FOIL request could legally be turned down for inter-agency communications.
“There is a provision of the Freedom of Information Law that allows agencies to withhold intra- and inter-agency communications with certain exceptions,” said O’Neill.
Emails concerning the deliberative process where ideas are being shared aren’t required for release, she said.
However, if they contain statistical or factual tabulations of data, instructions to staff that affect the public or final agency policy or determinations, under the state’s FOIL law, they must be released, she said.
The WLCA said its FOIL effort was for the purpose of obtaining SCA correspondence that identified potential issues: environmental or construction-related.
Among the issues WLCA addressed were a possible underground oil tank in the schoolyard that may be disrupted during construction, replacement of mature trees that were removed and traffic concerns, said Musano.